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What Middle Schoolers Say about Healthy Talks with Parents

Being in the sixth to eighth grades can be one of the equally crucial stages in human development. “Tweens”, as they are  popularly called, capture the nuance of being “in between” of many pre-teen transitions, or more often, tensions. It is during this phase that they get a glimpse of  what it means to be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual beings, facing a lot of, and yes, rapid changes. At this age, middle schoolers become much more introspective of their identities, beliefs, and stances in life. When they speak or write, it is evident that they are striving to be true to themselves, as they sense the need to express the kind of person that they are. But this season of “growing up” is critical because at this stage in life, people, especially adults, can either make or break a pre-teen’s nascent sense of “self”. What is quite unfortunate is that some middle schoolers lament that they clam up because their parents shut them out first:

“I wish my parents wouldn't just make quick assumptions about me. I hope they listen to both sides of the story before blaming me for something.” 

“There are too many changes in my life right now and my parents just don’t understand me.” 

“Whenever I try to tell my parents about what I want to do, they just ignore me. I feel like there’s no one in our house who’s willing to listen to me.”

“My parents treat me like an eight-year-old kid. I feel belittled.”

As the adults in the family, the parents have the command responsibility to maintain a healthy communication with their middle school children. After all, the parents play a key role in helping their children become independent adults. But how can parents nurture a respectful relationship with their children? 

Tobias and Acuña (2014) state that “when it comes to talking to middle schoolers, there are three basic things to remember: a) they want to be listened to; b) they want to be understood; and c) they want to be taken seriously” (p. 60). In short, middle schoolers desire for an OPEN and RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION with their parents. To have meaningful conversations with this age group, parents need to know what these youngsters have to say. 

Here are key suggestions about maintaining healthy parental-pre-teen discourse from middle school students in Keys School Manila.

A question parents might ask: “How do I become friends with my child if s/he is not opening up with me?
Suggestion: Since pre-teens are quite self-conscious at this age, they have the growing propensity to think that people’s judgment can embarrass them, including their parents’. What parents can do is to express clearly that they can be trusted and be their child’s confidante. Of course, it starts with small talks until kids find something that they can freely share. Parents should be very organic and at the same time strategic when leading kids into conversations. 
A question parents might ask: “How do I maintain a clear communication with my pre-teen child if s/he gets too emotional while sharing, maybe too excited or impulsive, and I can’t understand a thing s/he is saying?”
Suggestion: It is important that parents exercise patience as they listen to their children. They can try saying, “I’m so interested in this story that you’re sharing. Can you tell me the most important part?” Also, showing them empathy makes them feel understood and secured. For example, if pre-teens vent out their frustrations, parents can validate what their kids feel at the time without being didactic or offering advice or suggestions UNLESS their children ask.

A question parents might ask: “I can’t seem to find time with my pre-teen because I’m preoccupied with my work. What should I do?”
Suggestion: Parents can start with simple family-friendly activities like allowing pre-teens to choose a movie that they can watch and talk about together, playing games, taking a walk together, and many more! Family bondings don’t need to be grand anyway! Simple activities can do the trick of being connected to pre-teens. 

Here is a lovely photo of Khloe with her family. She shares how her fun-loving spirit is nurtured because she is surrounded by a family that understands and supports her as a pre-teen. 

Photo © Khloe Cu

An open and respectful communication between parents and pre-teens are essential to keep families intact. At any rate, families are the building blocks of society. Parents must take the lead in keeping their pre-teens secured and heard at home to ensure that our world is abundant with future adults who are tough in facing challenges and tender in helping the next generation. 

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